Self-help

Tips to Help You Choose the Best Online Therapist

In the last few years, online therapy — also called teletherapy, virtual therapy, or online counseling — has exploded in popularity.   The COVID-19 pandemic saw many people using the internet to find mental health support within the comfort and safety of their own homes. Today, many people continue to use telehealth services as it can […]

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW
Woman at a desk speaks on a video call.

Updated on Mar 27, 2024

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In the last few years, online therapy — also called teletherapy, virtual therapy, or online counseling — has exploded in popularity.  

The COVID-19 pandemic saw many people using the internet to find mental health support within the comfort and safety of their own homes. Today, many people continue to use telehealth services as it can be more accessible, convenient, and affordable.

While there are many benefits of online therapy, it’s important to choose an online therapist carefully. As with in-person therapy, your experience depends largely on whether your counselor is a good match for you. 

How Does Online Therapy Work?

Online therapy is a mental health service that is conducted through the internet. Although online therapy usually involves having live sessions via video call, it can also include therapy through text messages, phone calls, and email. 

When people talk about online therapy, they usually mean online psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is where you discuss your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a licensed therapist who then helps you reflect on what you’ve shared. It also involves learning new skills and knowledge to improve how you function. 

Many different kinds of mental health professionals offer online therapy services, including clinical social workers, family therapists, and licensed professional counselors. Couples therapy can also be conducted online. 

Depending on the type of therapy your counselor offers, your sessions may be structured or unstructured. Some online therapists may give you “homework” between sessions, whether that includes filling out worksheets or practicing new tools or techniques.

Therapy isn’t the only mental health service that can be conducted online. It’s possible to meet with an online psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner who offers medication assessment and management. Online psychiatry services can make it easier to have follow-up appointments with health providers to check in on your treatment plan.

The Benefits of Online Therapy

According to the American Psychological Association, online therapy can work just as well as traditional therapy. A 2021 review found that online therapy done via live video is as effective as in-person counseling sessions.

And for some people, online therapy is more accessible than seeing a therapist in person.

There can be a range of benefits of online therapy, says Marcia LeBeau, LPC-MHSP, LMHC, a licensed therapist who offers virtual sessions.  

For one, online counseling can be more convenient. “Meeting with a therapist online provides a lot of flexibility for those with busy schedules or those who may have specific challenges getting to an office for an appointment,” she says. For example, if leaving the house is difficult for a client — whether it’s because of physical disabilities, a lack of time, or agoraphobia — online therapy services can be more accessible.

The fact that they don’t need to commute can also be quite appealing. “Clients can meet with a therapist where they are most comfortable and they don’t have to worry about travel time to and from an office, so it can be more convenient,” LeBeau points out. This can be especially useful if commuting is costly or time-consuming.

And on the topic of cost, online therapy sessions are sometimes less costly than in-person therapy sessions.  

Often, health insurance covers online therapy just as it covers in-office therapy, but it’s a good idea to make sure that you understand your health insurance plan and how it covers mental health services. Be aware that you might have to pay a copay for each session. 

“I have also worked with a lot of clients who have high levels of anxiety who found that meeting online was less anxiety-provoking than the thought of having to go through all of the steps of getting to an in-person appointment,” LeBeau says. “It also allows them to be in a comfortable and familiar setting which can help soothe anxiety as well.”

Telehealth means that mental health care services can be more accessible and convenient for many people — but with that said, online therapy isn’t the best choice for everyone. 

Some people might actually prefer to visit a therapist’s office, especially if their home or office is a stressful space for them.  Face-to-face therapy also makes it easier to read body language.

Online therapy might also be inaccessible to people with poor internet connectivity or a lack of privacy in their home or office. If you’re not comfortable with technology, in-office therapy might be a better choice for you. 

Where to Find an Online Therapist 

You can find local in-person therapists through your doctor, recommendations from loved ones, your insurance company, or a therapy directory — but where do you find an online therapist?

You can start by looking where they operate: on the internet!

Online therapy platforms like Grow Therapy make it easier to find an online therapist. Using our Find a Therapist function, you can search for counselors that offer virtual therapy. 

Grow Therapy ensures that all their therapists are qualified and licensed, which takes some of the legwork out of choosing a therapist.

The filters on our therapy platform make it easier to find online therapists that fit your specific needs, operate in your state, and take your health insurance plan. You can also filter therapists by their identities, specializations, and availability.

Once you find an online therapist that seems like a good fit, you can book a session directly through our platform. 

If you currently see a therapist in person, but you’d prefer to do online sessions with them, you can ask if teletherapy is a service they offer. 

How to Choose an Online Therapist

You’ve decided to invest in your mental health by trying online therapy. Well done — this is a fantastic first step in helping yourself feel better!

The next step is to choose a therapist that works for you. 

First thing’s first — you’ll want to ensure that your therapist:

But beyond that, you should look for a therapist who will be a good fit for you. You’ll want someone who:

Not sure what you’re looking for in a therapist? Consider the following questions:

Your first session with an online therapist will likely involve getting to know one another. They’ll ask what brings you to therapy and about your mental health history. In turn, you can ask them questions about their approach. This can help you figure out whether they’ll be a good fit for you. 

How to Make the Most of Online Therapy Services

If you’re new to online therapy — whether it’s because you’re used to in-office therapy or haven’t had professional counseling before — it may take a little time to get used to it. 

There are several ways to make online therapy easier and more comfortable for you.

Find a Private Space

Therapy can involve discussing delicate topics — which is why privacy is important. 

This can be a challenge with online therapy, LeBeau says. “When doing therapy at home, or sometimes even at the office on a lunch break, finding the space to have a private video call can sometimes be challenging if they share a space with others,” she explains. 

If you’d like to try online therapy, it’s important to have a private space where others won’t intrude (or eavesdrop). Securing your privacy might include taking steps like finding childcare, putting a “do not disturb” sign on your office door, or asking your roommate to give you some alone time during your session. 

Try to Clear Distractions 

While your home can be a comfortable and safe space, it can also be full of distractions. “When having a video session at home, it can be hard to ignore the dogs barking in the living room,” LeBeau says. This can make it harder to stay engaged during your session. 

To reduce distractions, you might want to:

Ridding your space of distractions can become a pleasant way to mentally prepare yourself for therapy before each session.  

Set Aside Time 

Whether you’re going to a therapist’s office or sitting in the comfort of your own home, it’s important to set aside time to prioritize your mental health.

LeBeau notes that a lot of people multitask during online therapy sessions. Some people may drive, do household chores, or look at their phone or email inbox during the session. 

Multitasking can make it difficult to focus on therapy and engage meaningfully with your counselor. Plus, when you drive during a session — as many people may try to do — it can be dangerous. 

“When attending your online therapy appointment, remember to set aside that time just like you would an in-person appointment,” LeBeau suggests. “You deserve that space for your own mental health self-care, so it’s important to protect it and take that time for yourself.”

FAQs

  • Generally speaking, online therapy tends to be cheaper than face-to-face therapy. The price of each online therapy session will depend on the provider as some online therapists are more expensive than others. If you have a health insurance plan, it might cover online therapy. Call your insurance company to find out whether they cover online therapy sessions. To make therapy more affordable, you can look into some low-cost and free therapy options.

  • Yes. Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. Therapy can be an investment in your mental health, possibly reaping benefits in your personal and professional life.

  • If you feel that your anxiety is bothering you, or affecting your day-to-day functioning, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a mental health provider. Being unable to sleep, eat, or concentrate can also serve as different signs that you should seek support.

  • Some common signs that you need therapy include: Having difficulty keeping up with school, work, or home tasks •Sleeping too much or too little •Eating too much or too little •Not feeling interested in things that usually interest you •Struggling with constant negative or intrusive thoughts •Feeling distressed most or all of the time •Engaging in risky behavior •Using alcohol or drugs to adjust your mood •Others suggesting that you need mental health help However, you don’t need to be in crisis to benefit from therapy. If you think you need mental health support, that alone is a good sign that you will benefit from speaking with a professional.

  • You can use Grow Therapy’s search tool to find a local therapist or an online therapist that serves patients in your state.

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating people dealing with addiction, anxiety, depression, grief, communication problems, and other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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